By the end of the week, it won’t be hard to imagine that the Boston College Eagles will be sick of hearing the gobbling of turkeys. In addition to the normal crowd noise pumped into Alumni Stadium, the coaching staff is also using the gobbling pump-up sound used by the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. While the post-Halloween hangover will just be winding down by kickoff on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles are hoping to roast some turkey a few weeks before Thanksgiving. To do so, however, they’ll have to beat a team that’s almost been a mirror image of themselves thus far this year.
The Hokies opened up their season 2-0, following an opening-weekend beatdown of William and Mary up with a 14-point win at Ohio State, at which point the Hokies became the 17th-ranked team in the nation. The next week, however, VT tied East Carolina with less than a minute and a half remaining before allowing East Carolina to score with 16 seconds left on the clock. The Hokies also lost close games to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh and beat Western Michigan and UNC, before they got clobbered against the Miami Hurricanes last Thursday night.
BC and VT have each shown the uncanny ability to look dominant against a tough opponent, and then look absolutely helpless against lesser opponents. On the days where the Eagles and Hokies put together a complete game, they are nigh unbeatable. On the other days, they induce heart attacks, indigestion, and downright frustration for their fan bases. BC showed a little of each last weekend against Wake Forest.
The first half contained everything BC prides itself on—a strong rushing attack and stifling defense. Freshman Jon Hilliman continues to prove himself as a consistent rushing threat, as he found the end zone twice, once from 33 yards out, and once on a goal line carry from a single yard out. The Eagles’ defense shut down Wake Forest in the half, getting gashed for a total of six yards of offense. They got to QB John Wolford three times, twice by Kevin Kavalec and once from Mike Strizak. Wake’s anemic rushing offense didn’t get solidly into positive numbers until the third quarter, and was at negative yards at halftime.
As the game wore on, however, it was clear that neither side of the ball was having the success it did early on. BC’s offense managed just 15 yards in the third quarter, and just six points in the half. While they were able to move the ball in the most critical of situations, they couldn’t do so with consistency in the half. Part of that was Wake Forest’s defense stepping up, but it also had to do with an increased amount of pressure allowed by BC’s offensive line. BC head coach Steve Addazio put even more pressure on his line in his press conference Monday afternoon. “Virginia Tech’s defense is as good as anybody in the country … We’ll be up against it with a high-end, quality defense.”
Defensively, BC gave up 17 points in the second half, almost allowing Wake Forest to complete the massive comeback. BC’s defense has lost multiple defensive starters over the first eight weeks of the season, including DL Mehdi Abdesmad, LB Sean Duggan for a game, and DBs Bryce Jones and John Johnson.
This has forced freshmen into prominent roles they wouldn’t otherwise be asked to fill. It also forced safety Justin Simmons into a starting cornerback role on just four days notice. In a microcosm of BC’s season, Simmons and the rest of the replacements allowed 242 yards, most in the second half, but rallied to intercept Wolford when the game was on the line.
Virginia Tech’s offense is ranked 77th in the nation, 61st in passing and 80th in rushing offense. BC will need to keep up the pressure it got on Wake Forest in the first half—when the defense gave Wolford time, he successful in finding holes to throw to. BC defensive end Kevin Kavalec isn’t worried about the two different defensive showings.
“We just have to come out every week with the same intensity and same effort,” Kavalec said. “I think it’s based on our tackling, when we tackle well we’re a really good defense.”
The Eagles have had an up-and-down season, but it hasn’t held them back from being one win short of bowl eligibility with four games to go in the year. Virginia Tech has faced a similar road, and Addazio sees that.
“They’re a young team, a building team, they’re on that roller coaster ride a lot like us, but there is a lot of talent on that team,” he said.
Where each team’s roller coaster happends to be on Saturday afternoon could decide the winner.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor